When does Christmas REALLY begin?
Was 2016 a terrible year for celebrity deaths?
How can we tell what the President is thinking?
Big Stupid Data is a lighthearted compendium of data-driven insights about the world around us. We all know that big data analysis is changing the world but this book isn’t going to tackle important issues, like poverty or climate change. Instead, James O’Malley is going to apply the same analytical rigour to some stupid questions instead.
From using government food inspection data to work out which fast-food chain is the grossest, to mining through 180,000 reviews to work out which films are the most controversial, this book will answer some of the big questions we might never have thought to ask, like, just how often does ITV repeat Shaun of the Dead? Or how many Twitter followers will winning a gold medal at the Olympics earn you?
Inadvertently, some of the silly ideas may also tell us something genuinely useful: Like how the quality of driving in a given country can reveal something about the quality of its government - or how by watching what the Trump family is liking on Twitter, we can get a real handle on what is going on inside the most powerful office in the world.
Essentially, it’d be a fun book for anyone who is a little bit nerdy - think Randall Munroe’s What If? meets Freakonomics
Which Films Do Critics Disagree About The Most?
We look to film critics to be an authority on what films are worth seeing, and which we should be miss - but the truth is, sometimes the critics disagree. In fact, sometimes they really disagree. So I wanted to find out, which films are the most controversial amongst critics?
To find out, I downloaded an enormous dataset from popular aggregator Metacritic. It turns out that critics really disagree about the likes of Sin City, Under the Skin and Star Wars Episode III.
This same dataset has also enabled me to dig into other questions: Which films do critical opinions mostly diverge from those of audiences. And which critics are the most contrarian? And which are the best barometers of critical opinion?
I was even able to wade in on the ultimate question by mashing the data up with data from industry website Box Office Mojo: Are box office results affected by bad reviews?
What Can A Country’s Roads Tell Us About Its Government?
Over the last few years there have been a number of big, dense political works of political science, digging into figuring out what really makes countries successful. The likes of Why Nations Fail and Political Order And Political Decay both broadly agree - institutions are key, and that corruption is corrosive to development.
But these are all hard to measure and take a lot of time consuming analysis. Luckily then, I’ve hit upon a useful heuristic for telling just how good a government is: the quality of the roads. Inspired by a haphazard drive around Bucharest, I took data on governance and rule of law and mashed it up data on the number of road deaths - and revealed a surprisingly stark correlation.
Which Fast Food Chain Is The Grossest?
Fast food definitely has a mixed reputation: Sure, it might be just what you need at 1am after a night out, but it also seems reasonable to worry about just where your food is coming from.
These people are helping to fund Big Stupid Data.